Smoking With Myfanwy Collins

Read the Story October 15, 2004

I could sing your work. It’s that gorgeous: “We are going to wait for two strangers to scratch at our nighty-night windows.” Do you ever sing it? Seriously, though, is sound a conscious craft element you attend to—and what do you think this element does for a piece?

WOW! Thank you. How lovely of you to say. Okay, so sound is not a conscious craft element, no. Truly, I write the way I think—which is not the same as how I speak or even hear. My external voice is mostly careful, measured—though sometimes frenzied, sometimes heated. My internal voice pokes at me softly first, then louder and louder until it becomes real. It repeats itself—makes itself heard. It has a sense of rhythm that I lack in regular speech and movement. It is its own entity. As an element, I’m not sure what it adds or not—it just is what it is. I couldn’t say it any other way.

Your work packs such a metaphoric wallop. Here, the different meanings of “slip it in” resonate throughout the work. So, in your writing process, what comes first—the image or the meaning attached to it? And how can I get so good at it?

The image definitely comes first or a sentence, a phrase, a sound, a feeling. Maybe I am scared. Maybe I am angry. And then slowly the thing spins itself into something—and sometimes it is cohesive, comprehensible and has meaning outside of me. Other times it is not, it does not. It remains elusive and means something only to me and then I know that I have more work to do. That I must put this thing away and let it fester and maybe it will grow into something.

Your work has a fearless, risky quality. Take the point-of-view in this piece, that “we.” Is such risk something that comes natural to you or do you push yourself to go where others fear to tread?

Really I am scared. In life, I mean, I am afraid of heights, strangers, dying, driving on the highway, etc. etc. I am a coward. But I don’t want to be so I climb mountains and go out into the woods by myself. With writing, I’m not intentionally trying to take risks. I’m really just writing the way it comes to me. One of my literature professors once said to me, “Myfanwy, you don’t think like the rest of us. Sometimes that’s good and it works for you but other times it’s not good and you fall on your ass.” Now, he was trying to get me to straighten up some so that I could fit in with the other scholars and their scholarly ways of thinking but I was sort of blown away. Actually, I thought it might have been one of the coolest things anyone ever said to me—even though that wasn’t what he intended. It also made me sort of scared. So I guess I do take risks but I never mean to. Is that lame?

Your editing position at Ink Pot. What do you learn from the “slush pile” that translates into getting your amazing writing even better?

Working at Ink Pot has been a wonderful experience for me. Bev has been so generous with her knowledge and her vision. From the slush pile, I would say I learn a lot about the business of publishing—but this, too, is important. I learn that when my own work is rejected, it is not personal; it’s because my story is not right or because my story is not ready but it is not about me as a person (or at least it shouldn’t be!). So what this translates to for me: is make it right, make it ready if you are intent on sending it out somewhere—don’t give someone an excuse to tell you no. I also see myself in the submissions I read, meaning: I empathize. I try to feel what the writer is telling me. And I ask myself: Do I understand you? Is this what you want to tell me as your reader? Can I hear your voice?

I could pick up a pile of flash pieces and pick out yours right away. It’s got that Myfanwy thang. How would you describe your distinct style?

I guess what I do is to try to be honest. I put down something the way I hear it and know it. But I’m human and sometimes I obscure the truth as I know it—and when I do this in my writing it shows because I’m trying to force something to please someone else and not be true to how I should say it.

About the Author:

Myfanwy Collins has work published or forthcoming in Kenyon Review, AGNI, Cream City Review, Potomac Review, Saranac Review, Quick Fiction, FRiGG, Mississippi Review, Monkeybicycle, and Jabberwock Review. Please visit her at:

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.